Abortion and Equal Rights Are Driving Young Women Voters—and High Turnout Is Expected

Update Oct. 27 at 9:45 a.m. PT: Turnout among young voters in the midterms is expected to match or exceed the record set in 2018, according to new polling from the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School. The poll showed 40 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds say they will “definitely” vote in the Nov. 8 midterms.

“In 2018, America’s youngest voters ran to the polls in record-breaking numbers to confront the challenges facing our democracy,” said IOP interim director Setti Warren. “Our new poll shows that those historic midterm numbers were not a fluke: Gen Z is a formidable voting bloc that demands to be heard. Across geography, race, gender, and background, young Americans view the world from a starkly different lens than older generations. Elected officials should pay attention.”


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A woman puts her ballot into a dropbox outside the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office in Norwalk, Calif. on Sept. 14, 2021, during the state’s recall election. Today, 41 percent of young women voters say they are angry or worried about the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images)

Among young women voters ages 18-29 in the battleground states, abortion and women’s rights are the most important and highly motivating issues in determining their vote, according to new Ms. magazine and Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) polling by Lake Research Partners across the nine battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“Despite constant reports in the media on inflation and rising prices as the top issues in this election, abortion and women’s rights are actually the most important for young women as they head to the ballot box,” said Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms.

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Among young women voters in the battleground states, abortion and women’s rights are the most important and highly motivating issues in determining their vote.

Among women voters of all ages in the battleground states, abortion and women’s rights are tied with inflation and rising prices in determining their votes, according to the Ms. and FMF poll of all women voters.

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“The overturning of Roe v. Wade has lit a fire under women voters, and especially young women voters, who have the power to determine close elections,” said Spillar.

Support for the Equal Rights Amendment Is a Motivating Factor in Midterms

The Ms./FMF polling also shows that 74 percent of young women support the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), with 72 percent saying it is “personally” important to them now that various states are banning abortion.

“The message from women voters is clear: The Equal Rights Amendment is more important than ever, especially young women who are most affected by the Court’s decision,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority Foundation (publisher of Ms.) and a long-time leader in the fight for the ERA. “Voters—especially women voters—now know that rights can be taken away and want an amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing that rights cannot be ‘denied or abridged on account of sex.'”

Just under three-quarters of all women voters (73 percent) support the ERA being placed in the Constitution, which is high among men as well (66 percent).

Court’s Decision Impacts Young Women Voters in Battleground States

According to the poll:

  • Forty-one percent of young women voters are feeling angry or worried about the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
  • Over half (55 percent) of young women voters in battleground states say abortion and women’s rights combined are the top issues that will determine their votes.
  • Only 33 percent of young women voters rank inflation and rising prices as their top issues motivating their vote, with even fewer ranking climate change (9 percent) or education debt (5 percent) as their top issue.

In a generic congressional ballot across battleground states, young women voters support Democratic candidates (48 percent), topping support for Republican candidates (29 percent) by double-digit margins.

Young men in battleground states are split in a generic congressional ballot (42 percent Democratic and 41 percent Republican).

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A rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to celebrate the Senate’s confirmation vote for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on April 8, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

Women Voters of All Ages Energized by Abortion and Women’s Rights

Abortion restrictions and outright bans have energized pro-abortion rights women to be motivated to turn out to vote in November in much larger numbers than their anti-abortion counterparts, refuting conventional wisdom that those opposed to abortion are more motivated by the issue.

  • Thirty-five percent of pro-abortion rights voters prioritize women’s rights and abortion in their vote decisions—compared to 10 percent of anti-abortion voters.

In this election cycle, women’s rights and abortion matter, especially to women. This means women voters, who make up over half of likely voters in the battleground states, could decide the outcome of key races as candidates engage them on issues of personal relevance, including abortion and equal rights under the law.

  • Among women voters of all ages, abortion and women’s rights (at 31 percent) are just as critical as inflation and rising prices (at 32 percent), in determining their vote, and more important than crime (12 percent) or education (11 percent) regularly cited in media reports.

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

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About

Roxy Szal is the digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.